Glossary of computer hardware terms
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This is a glossary of terms relating to computer hardware.
- accumulator - a register in a CPU in which intermediate arithmetic and logic results are stored.
- address - the unique number that specifies a memory location.
- ATX (Advanced Technology extended) - a motherboard form factor specification developed by Intel in 1995 to improve on previous DE factor standards like the AT form factor.
- AT - the dimensions and layout (form factor) of the motherboard for the IBM AT.
- AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) - a high-speed point-to-point channel for attaching a video card to a computer's motherboard, primarily to assist in the acceleration of 3D computer graphics.
- bus - a subsystem that transfers data between computer components inside a computer or between computers.
- Blu-ray Disc - a optical disc storage medium designed to supersede the DVD format.
- BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) - a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use.
- cache - a fast memory that transparently improves the performance of a larger, but slower memory or storage device.
- CD-R (Compact Disc-Recordable) - a variation of the optical compact disc which may be written to once.
- CD-RW (Compact Disc-ReWritable) - a variation of the optical compact disc which may be written to many times.
- CD-ROM (Compact Disc Read-Only Memory) - a pre-pressed optical compact disc which contains data or music playback.
- chip (or integrated circuit) - a miniaturized electronic circuit that has been manufactured in the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material.
- control store - the memory that stores the microcode of a CPU.
- core memory - in modern usage, a synonym for main memory, dating back from the pre-semiconductor-chip times when the dominant main memory technology was magnetic core memory.
- CPU (Central processing unit) - the portion of a computer system that executes the instructions of a computer program.
- Conventional PCI (Conventional Peripheral Component Interconnect) - a computer bus for attaching hardware devices in a computer.
- Computer case (or computer chassis, cabinet, box, tower, enclosure, housing, system unit or simply case) - the enclosure that contains most of the components of a computer (usually excluding the display, keyboard and mouse).
- Computer form factor - the name used to denote the dimensions, power supply type, location of mounting holes, number of ports on the back panel, etc.
- Chipset (or chip set) - a group of integrated circuits, or chips, that are designed to work together. They are usually marketed as a single product.
- Channel I/O - a generic term that refers to a high-performance input/output (I/O) architecture that is implemented in various forms on a number of computer architectures, especially on mainframe computers.
- DVD (Digital Video Disc or Digital Versatile Disc) - an optical compact disc - of the same dimensions as compact discs (CDs), but store more than six times as much data.
- DASD (Direct Access Storage Device) - mainframe terminology introduced by IBM denoting secondary storage with random access, typically (arrays of) hard disk drives.
- DIMM (dual in-line memory module) - a series of dynamic random-access memory integrated circuits. These modules are mounted on a printed circuit board and designed for use in personal computers, workstations and servers.
- DisplayPort - DisplayPort is a digital display interface developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). The interface is primarily used to connect a video source to a display device such as a computer monitor, though it can also be used to transmit audio, USB, and other forms of data.
- DVI - Digital Visual Interface (DVI) is a video display interface developed by the Digital Display Working Group (DDWG). The digital interface is used to connect a video source to a display device, such as a computer monitor.
- DRAM (Dynamic random-access memory) - a type of random-access memory that stores each bit of data in a separate capacitor within an integrated circuit and which must be periodically refreshed to retain the stored data.
- expansion card (or expansion board, adapter card, accessory card) - a printed circuit board that can be inserted into an expansion slot of a computer motherboard to add functionality to a computer system.
- ExpressCard - an interface to allow peripheral devices to be connected to a computer, usually a laptop computer.
- EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) - a type of non-volatile memory chip that may be electrically erased and reprogrammed.
- EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) - a type of non-volatile memory chip that may be erased (normally via UV light) and reprogrammed.
- execute - When a CPU interprets the operation code of a program instruction and performs the specified operation.
- Firewall - A hardware device or software to protect a computer from viruses, malware, trojans etc.
- firmware - fixed programs and data that internally control various electronic devices.
- floppy disk - a data storage medium that is composed of a disk of thin, flexible ("floppy") magnetic storage medium encased in a square or rectangular plastic shell.
- floppy disk drive - a device for reading floppy disks.
- Flash Memory - a type of non volatile computer storage chip that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed.
- hard drive - a non-volatile storage device that stores data on rapidly rotating rigid (i.e. hard) platters with magnetic surfaces.
- hardware - the physical components of a computer.
- HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) - a compact interface for transferring encrypted uncompressed digital audio and video data to a device such as a computer monitor, video projector or digital television.
- input device - any peripheral equipment used to provide data and control signals to an information processing system.
- input/output - the communication between an information processing system (such as a computer), and the outside world.
- IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second, pronounced eye-ops) - a common performance measurement used to benchmark computer storage devices like hard disk drives.
- instruction - a group of several bits in a computer program that contains an operation code and usually one or more memory addresses.
- keyboard - an input device, partially modeled after the typewriter keyboard, which uses an arrangement of buttons or keys, to act as mechanical levers or electronic switches.
- mainframe - powerful computer used mainly by large organizations for bulk data processing such as census, industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning, and financial transaction processing.
- motherboard - the central printed circuit board (PCB) in many modern computers which holds many of the crucial components of the system, while providing connectors for other peripherals.
- memory - devices that are used to store data or programs on a temporary or permanent basis for use in an electronic digital computer.
- monitor - an electronic visual display for computers.
- mouse - a pointing device that functions by detecting two-dimensional motion relative to its supporting surface.
- Mini-VGA - small connectors used on some laptops and other systems in place of the standard VGA connector.
- Microcode - a layer of hardware-level instructions involved in the implementation of higher level machine code instructions in many computers and other processors.
- Mask ROM - a type of read-only memory (ROM) whose contents are programmed by the integrated circuit manufacturer.
- network - a collection of computers and devices connected by communications channels.
- Non-volatile memory - memory that can retain the stored data even when not powered.
- Non-volatile random-access memory - random-access memory that retains its data when power is turned off.
- optical disc drive - a disk drive that uses laser light or electromagnetic waves near the light spectrum as part of the process of reading or writing data to or from optical discs.
- Operating system - the set of software that manages computer hardware resources and provide common services for computer programs.
- Operation code - Several bits in a computer program instruction that specify which operation to perform.
- pen drive - another name for a USB flash drive.
- peripheral - a device attached to a computer but not part of it.
- personal computer - any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user, with no intervening computer operator.
- printer - a peripheral which produces a text or graphics of documents stored in electronic form, usually on physical print media such as paper or transparencies.
- PSU (power supply unit) - A unit of the computer that converts mains AC to low-voltage regulated DC for the power of all the computer components.
- PROM (Programmable Read-Only Memory) - a type of non-volatile memory chip that may be programmed after the device is constructed.
- PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) - a computer expansion bus standard designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X, and AGP bus standards.
- PCI-X (PCI-eXtended) - a computer bus and expansion card standard that enhances the 32-bit PCI Local Bus for higher bandwidth demanded by servers.
- RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) - data storage schemes that can divide and replicate data across multiple hard disk drives in order to increase reliability, allow faster access, or both.
- RAM (random-access memory) - any form of computer data storage that allow stored data to be accessed in any order (i.e., at random).
- ROM (Read Only Memory) - a type of memory chip that retains its data when its power supply is switched off.
- server - a computer which may be used to provide services to clients.
- software - computer programs and other kinds of information read and written by computers.
- SIMM (single in-line memory module) - a type of memory module containing random access memory used in computers from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.
- Solid-state drive (or solid-state disk or electronic disk) - a data storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently.
- SRAM (Static random-access memory) - a type of semiconductor memory that uses bistable latching circuitry to store each bit. The term static differentiates it from dynamic RAM (DRAM) which must be periodically refreshed.
- SDRAM (Synchronous dynamic random access memory) - dynamic random access memory that is synchronized with the system bus.
- tape drive - a peripheral device that allows only sequential access, typically using magnetic tape.
- terminal - an electronic or electromechanical hardware device that is used for entering data into, and displaying data from, a computer or a computing system.
- touchpad or trackpad - a pointing device consisting of specialized surface that can translate the motion and position of a user's fingers or a stylus to a relative position on a screen.
- USB (Universal Serial Bus) - a specification to establish communication between devices and a host controller (usually a personal computers).
- USB flash drive - a flash memory device integrated with a USB interface. USB flash drives are typically removable and rewritable.
- VGA (Video Graphics Array) - the last graphical standard introduced by IBM to which the majority of PC clone manufacturers conformed.
- Volatile memory - memory that requires power to maintain the stored information.
- Virus - a computer program that can replicate itself and spread from one computer to another. The term "virus" is also commonly, but erroneously, used to refer to other types of malware, including but not limited to adware and spyware programs that do not have a reproductive ability.
- Webcam - A webcam is a video camera that feeds its images in real time to a computer or computer network, often via USB, Ethernet, or Wi-Fi.